Ty Robinson doesn't remember exactly what he was doing the day he first saw the camel on his family's property.
"I was all by myself and saw the camel in the backyard," the Nebraska incoming freshman defensive lineman says with a chuckle.
Let's be clear on this: The camel's real name is Humphrey. What a fabulous name for a camel. Think about it. But Robinson called him "Calvin" upon their first meeting and is sticking hard to that name. Even Robinson's friends at school call the camel "Calvin." That's a pretty good name, too.
As for Robinson's initial encounter with Calvin, "I didn't believe my eyes for a minute," says the 6-foot-5, 285-pound high school All-American, whose family lives on an acreage in Gilbert, Arizona. "But he came up to me and I was like, 'You're really real.'"
Let's be clear on another thing: The camel is owned by Robinson's neighbor. But the pasture at the Robinson acreage apparently is well-suited for a camel. So there he stands. There's no way that camel could've known he would become somewhat famous in the state of Nebraska, the result of Husker football coach Scott Frost making reference to him Dec. 19 as he discussed players who just signed national letters of intent with his program.
A camel reference tends to elicit curiosity, particularly when the camel is part of a unique recruiting visit that involved Frost and his entire full-time staff of assistants converging on Robinson's home Dec. 13 for a party of sorts that lasted roughly four hours. It was a highly concentrated effort to land a four-star defensive lineman with great size and athleticism, one who was coveted by a long list of schools, including Alabama, USC and Oregon.
You have to wonder if Nick Saban took time to pet that camel during his December visit to Gilbert.
Which bring us to another pressing question: Does the Robinson family's dog, Kodak, really fetch bottles of water out of the refrigerator on command, as Frost suggested? It's not that I'm doubting the head coach; I just wanted to hear it for myself.
"Yes, he does," says Robinson, sounding slightly annoyed by the question. "It's my sister's doing because my mom brought up the idea of training him to do that. He's a very smart dog — a Catahoula/heeler mix — but I find him very annoying because he's very protective of my sister and my mom. He barks all the time."
Kodak opens the refrigerator door by himself using a rope and then grabs bottles for whoever asks. That has to be fun to watch. It had to be quite a gathering with all those Nebraska coaches on hand on that fateful Thursday night.
They began arriving at Robinson's home at about 3:30 p.m. They watched an NFL game on TV as well as the Nebraska volleyball team's five-set triumph against Illinois in the NCAA Tournament semifinals. They played cornhole, basketball and pingpong. There was a bonfire. There was a quarterbacks coach with a cigar.
Robinson's voice rises with enthusiasm as he tells you about his pingpong matches against Nebraska defensive line coach Mike Dawson.
"I was a little rusty at first, I'm not going to lie," Robinson says. "Coach Dawson beat me a little bit. But the side of the story they won't tell you is how I skunked him once, 8-0, and beat him twice in a row after that. I was in a zone because I was mad because I hate losing. I … hate … losing."
At that point, it was dinner time. There was clam chowder and green chili. Soup was the theme. After dinner, Dawson asked Robinson if he wanted to play cornhole. They played and talked and talked some more. Frost eventually joined them. They soon made their way to the bonfire.
"Frost asked if there was anything else I needed to know," Robinson recalls.
That is when life got serious, or as serious as it can get with a camel nearby.
"I told him, 'No, I don't have any questions,'" Robinson said. "I just got a little cheesy and asked, 'OK, where do I sign?'"
There it was. Boom. The big score. Nebraska landed a cornerstone of its 2019 recruiting class. Robinson feels comfortable around Frost and his staff. The lineman also appreciates that the Husker football program emphasizes the importance of players participating in community service. He says he was blown away by how much the players give back to the community.
Make no mistake, though, the good vibe he felt with the coaches was critical.
"For the next three, four, five years, it's important how we go about this whole thing," Robinson says. "Are we going to butt heads every day? Or are we going to make this a great relationship, where we work together and go win some games? I felt good around a lot of the other coaches that recruited me, but you can only go to one school. I felt like the best deal was with Coach Dawson."
You can imagine Dawson's joy after Robinson gave him the good news. What a night. What a celebration. There was one problem. Husker quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco had just left the house because he had an early flight the next day. He didn't hear the news.
"Someone yelled, 'Go catch Verduzco!'" Robinson says. "Someone went out to grab him. He came back. I had never seen the little man run before. It was funny. He gave me a big hug."
Smiles all around. Safe to say even Humphrey felt the good vibes.